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What Makes Nursing Worth It

November 13, 2011

Now that I’ve shared the nitty gritty details of the so-called, “typical day” in nursing, I think it’s important to share why we actually do what we do. During the day-to-day duties and responsibilities it’s so easy to forget the route of nursing care is always the patient.

Some days I find myself stressed beyond belief, pushing my COW (Computer on Wheels) up and down the hallways of the unit wondering how I will ever get my tasks complete for the day. It is at these times that I force myself to stop, take a deep breath and remind myself that what my patients need isn’t for me to be a stressed, abrupt nurse, but generally, they need for me to take the time and listen to their concerns and stories regardless of the medication that needs to be administered in 10 minutes, or the documentation from the morning that hasn’t been completed yet.

It can be hard to find a balance of meeting my patient’s psychosocial needs and their medical needs. That being said I don’t believe one can occur without the other. If a patient’s psychosocial needs aren’t met, how can we as healthcare professionals expect them to focus on their medical diagnosis or on getting better? When my patients or their family members are stressed about who is going to feed the dog while they’re in the hospital it’s all they can think about. If I try and give my patient their meds and they have something to say…well guess what, they won’t take those meds until they get a chance to say what they need to say.

Before I had any “real-world”  nursing experience, if I’d been in a hurry I used to try and get my patients to take their meds even if they were trying to tell me a story. Usually those patients would say to me, “hold on, I need another minute, just listen.” From such experiences I’ve learned that it’s actually quicker if I just muster all of the patience I can bear to hold onto and put on one of my biggest smiles until they’re done telling me their story. This generally works, and patients often thank me for taking the time to listen to their stories, concerns and anecdotes. In the end it turns out I didn’t have to force myself to listen because I usually walked away from conversations having learned something new, valuable and applicable to my patient’s care. It almost felt like I had unlocked a key to taking care of my patient. For example, from talking to my patient for 5 minutes, I now know that they love Joni Mitchell more than anything. Knowing this tidbit is useful for when my patient is in extreme pain, or is ridden with anxiety because the simple mention of Joni Mitchell’s name when my patient is faced with something difficult can distract them if only for a moment.

Despite the difficult tasks and time consuming documentation in which there never seems to be enough time to finish during a shift, it’s the little moments with patients, listening to their stories, answering their questions, teaching them ways to improve their health that make my job meaningful.

I’ve talked with patients about Jesus, their children, spouses, pets, houses, favorite music, the Vietnam War, George Bush, President Obama, Self-Defense classes for women and many more topics one could not imagine. I don’t always know everything about a certain topic of conversation, but I can usually get by with the knowledge I do have. If these little moments ceased to exist, I’m not sure I would have become a nurse and I’m not sure working as a nurse would be worth it in the long run. So listen to your patients, give them a squeeze on the shoulder and talk about their interests, because not only will it make your job easier, it can at minimum make your patients feel better for those 5 minutes.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Elyn permalink
    November 19, 2011 9:45 pm

    Inspiring and entertaining. After being there day after day when you were in the hospital I realize you are absolutely RIGHT ON! Patients need to know you are attentive to them and listening. It is such a large part of the healing process. You are a very sensitive, caring nurse, Miss.

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